Senior Health: Heavy Drinking and Smoking Linked to Early Aging

Senior Health Heavy Drinking and Smoking Linked to Early Aging

A new study shows that those who smoke cigarettes and drink heavily have an increased risk of oxidative damage to the brain tissue than those who abstain. The study is apparently the first to look at the effects of smoking and age on neurocognition in those seeking treatment for alcohol dependency, reported The new findings are significant to how alcoholism is treated, suggesting those who actively understand and adopt interventions will be more successful in overcoming their addiction. Factors like the increasing age of the person and and whether he or she is a heavy smoker during early abstinence can actually impede cognition during this sensitive period.

Complete results of the study are slated to be published in October of 2013 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Until then, we’ve adapted an excerpt below.

“We focused on the effects of chronic cigarette smoking and increasing age on cognition because previous research suggested that each has independent, adverse affects on multiple aspects of cognition and brain biology in people with and without alcohol use disorders,” according to corresponding author of the study Timothy Durazzo, Ph.D. “This previous research also indicated that the adverse effects of smoking on the brain accumulate over time. Therefore, we predicted that [alcohol disorder] AD, active chronic smokers would show the greatest decline in cognitive abilities with increasing age.”

On top of this, many of those in alcoholism treatment programs are smokers, an issue that is largely ignored, according to Alecia Dager, Ph.D., an associate research scientist in Yale’s department of psychiatry.

Various other factors such as nutrition, exercise, hypertension, diabetes, genetic predispositions and depressive disorders also can influence cognitive functioning during early abstinence, Durazzo said.

By measuring the cognitive health of individuals in the study ranging in age 26 to 71 at various stages of alcohol abstinence, the results indicated that the combined negative effects of drinking and smoking became more significant the older the person was. While it’s no secret that cognitive function declines naturally as we age, the study shows that drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes speeds up the process, surely something to consider the next time we reach for one of our favorite vices.

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